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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Political Correctness vs. Accuracy

From Wikipedia, here's the definition of Political Correctness-- Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, disability, and age-related contexts.

See the guy in the photo. That's the Marlboro Man. He was created the year after I was born. I grew up seeing him on tv ads and on billboards He, along with Joe Camel, the Lucky Strike guy, and a whole host of others were part of popular culture during my day.

I mention this because I was sitting here writing. The scene was my hero, agitated, staring toward the horizon, alone with his troubled thoughts. I was trying to think of ways to "show" his agitation when it suddenly dawned on me that just a few short years ago, I might have had him make a smoke, strike a Lucifer on his bootheel or thumbnail, then grind the hot match head into the dirt. But not anymore. Why? Because these days it's not politically correct for a hero to smoke. I'm not even sure why it popped into my head. It just did. Which got me to thinking about all the things we don't write about anymore because they're not socially acceptable. Well, it's my opinion that we've become so attuned to political correctness, we've lost something in the process, which is historical accuracy and the authentic flavor of times past.

But back to the smoking guy in the white hat. The Marlboro man usually did wear a white hat. Because he was the good guy. These days, the villains are usually the only persons who smoke. Because smoking is bad so it must be cast in a villainous light. Is this accurate? No, of course not. But think about the smoking man in the X-Files who left his trademark butts lying everywhere. That guy was the very definition of villain. The message is clear, but it's not historically accurate.

The fact is, the American cowboy of the Old West had about a 50% or better chance of being a smoker. Most all cowboys carried "the makin's" (a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers) in their pockets. Not only did they smoke tobacco, they chewed it in mass quantities. Why else did they have all those brass spittoons in every saloon.

Please do not think I am for one second advocating smoking. I'm not. I'm just trying to make a point about how all this political correctness has affected us as writers. And, frankly, I don't get it. We can write about murder, torture, vampirism, pagan gods and demonic heroes, etc. etc. and yet we don't dare have a guy light up when he's stressed. Does that make any sense at all?

Other than the slavery issues in Civil War romances, what other things can you think of that have become taboo subjects in our romance novels. As fiction writers, do you think we should always tailor our stories to conform to political correctness?

Devon

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chaos Winding Down

For the past week, I've been up to my eyeballs in chaos. I was right in the middle of an edit on my manuscript and haven't gotten back to it yet. I've done nothing but shuffle things around the house, trying to find some place to put them. Oh, I got all the major stuff done. It's the little things that are driving me to distraction.

The good news is, my son left his job in Richmond and walked right into another one here at home. It just so happened that my husband's part-time lady had to stop working for personal reasons, so my son stepped into her position. For the past three days, he's been at the store, learning the ropes.

Meanwhile, I finished reading "Pieces of Sky" by Kaki Warner. All I can say is, wow! It reminded me of--and yet it was not the same because it didn't go into a lot of daily life detail-- the reason why I fell in love with western historical romance all those years ago and decided those were the kinds of stories I wanted to write. Remember those? The historicals that actually had a story to go with the romance? I'm not going to give out any spoilers but I will say that parts of the story were absolutely haunting and will stay with me for a long time. If you love westerns that are all realism and no fluff like I do, then I highly recommend. The romance was beautifully played and kept me on the edge of my seat right up to the very end. I did NOT know for certain how this one was going to end. But I will tell you that I closed the book at the end with a weepy smile on my face.

I received "Open Country," the second book in Ms. Warner's Blood Rose Trilogy, but haven't even had a chance to look at it yet. Why? Because the moment it arrived, hubby snatched it and put it on his nightstand. He's one of those people who must read each night before he falls asleep, so it looks like I'm second in line to read the book. Again. He did the same thing with "Pieces of Sky."
Happy reading and writing!
Devon

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Turtle Tale

We live in the country, so we see all kinds of wild animals out here. Mostly, they're the cute kind, sometimes not. An example of that would be the copperhead hubby killed in the garage last week. Not so cute.

Anyway, back on the afternoon of May 30th, I went onto the back porch with Molly. I hadn't even sat down when Molly (who started having a fit) and I heard something scratching at the storm door that goes into the garage. The weird thing was, it was scratching from inside the garage, like it was trying to get out. The bottom of the door is aluminum, the rest glass. The glass was raised for ventilation, but I wasn't about to go over there and stick my head inside to see what it was.

So I go back inside the house, through the laundry room, and peek out the door into the garage. The mystery scratcher was a huge snapping turtle. The moment I stepped into the garage, the thing turned to look at me. I slipped over to the wall where hubby keeps all the tools and grabbed a big flat-bottomed snow shovel. Okay, so I've got the tool for removal, now how to put it to use? I had a devil of a time getting behind the turtle because every time I moved, it turned toward me. Finally, I went for broke and shoved the shovel against the turtle's back side and started sliding it as fast as I could across the garage floor. I shoved it right out the big door and then pulled it down so Mr. Turtle couldn't come back inside. He didn't look too happy as the door was coming down.

A little later, hubby came home from work. I told him about the turtle and we went out to see if we could spot it in the yard. It was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised because the thing had to really put on the speed to get gone so fast. Then hubby noticed a furrow in the nice, thick mulch he'd just put down in the shrub beds. It looked like a miniature plane had crash landed in the mulch. He looked closer and saw that the turtle had buried itself in there. So he got the hoe and plopped Mr. Turtle out of there. Turtle was very unhappy about this treatment and latched onto the hoe handle. Then--like me--hubby used the snow shovel. Unlike me, he actually scooped up the turtle and carried it down to the edge of the yard and released it into the woods.

Now you would think that's the end of the story, but it's not. The next morning--May 31st (I remember the date because it was hubby's birthday)--hubby was on the back porch having his morning coffee when he yelled for me to come out and look at something. The turtle was back. It was down in the yard acting really strange. It was stretching up on its legs as far as they would go, then dropping down to the ground. It did this several times before hubby and I decided a closer investigation was in order. We walked over to see what it was up to, which apparently upset it, because it decided to leave. As it turns out, Mr. Turtle was a Mrs. She'd dug a hole and was in the process of depositing her eggs. So we had a nice, neat hole full of turtle eggs, but she left without covering them. Hubby gently put the loose dirt over the eggs and we placed a patch of moss over the disturbed ground to disguise it from predators. Every day after that, we went out to look at the nest to make sure it hadn't been disturbed.

For the past week, we started to think the eggs wouldn't hatch. We knew they took anywhere between 60 and 120 days, depending on the temperature. (we looked it up online) With the heat wave we've been having, we figured it would only take the minimum amount of time. Then, today, the baby turtles came out of their shells and left the nest. I hope at least some of them survived the trip to the pond across the road. Happy birthday, baby turtles!

Devon

Friday, August 20, 2010

What I'm Reading

These past several weeks have been good writing days, and nights. In fact, a couple of times last week, I pulled an all-nighter. I haven't done that in years. Though it was exhausting after the fact, I was in my good place and had to keep going. It felt wonderful because I was getting something accomplished.

So I finished one manuscript--still putting a polish on that one--and am well into another. But for the past couple of days, that's all come to a screeching halt. My son is back! Not officially because he still has to go back to Richmond and work one more day at his job and pick up the last of his things from the apartment. But he actually is back. The reason I say that is because his bed and most his things are in his room again. As of today, he nearly has things put back the way he wants them. Computer and gaming system all set up and good to go. His clothes are in the closet and the drawers. It's hard to believe a year has gone by already.

Anyway, the reason my progress came to a halt is because as my son moved in, I had to move out all the "stuff" I had stashed in his room while he was gone. Good grief. You should see my office. Since I had no ready place to put all the "stuff," I just piled it in here and now my writing cave looks like a room from that Hoarders show. I have no idea where I'm going to put it all.

Okay. Enough of that. I wanted to tell you that I'm reading the first book in Kaki Warner's "Blood Rose Trilogy" titled Pieces of Sky. I'm far from finishing it, but that's okay. I'm reading a little every night before I go to bed and savoring each page. Yes, savoring. It's been a long time since I've said that about any book. To me, Pieces of Sky reads more like a straight western than a romance, which is mighty nice. I started out many years ago reading and writing straight westerns, so it's like going home again. Make no mistake, this book does have a very fine romance. What makes it so different is that it's not written with all the romance "language" we've come to expect and are expected to write. This book actually has a lot of story. And it's gritty. The grittier the better. I love it. And while I understand I won't find any explicit love scenes, the dialogue more than makes up in the explicit department. Yes, the language is about as gritty as you can get, but it isn't vulgar, unless you object to cussin'. When Ms. Warner did a guest blog at Petticoats & Pistols a couple of weeks ago, she said you wouldn't find any heaving bosoms or throbbing manhoods in her stories. And she was right. But what you will find is realism, characters so well written they seem like actual people, and wit written by the freshest voice I've seen in many years. I look forward to reading all her books (which number exactly two, so far). I hope she has a very long career and doesn't lose that freshness that makes her voice so unique.

Happy reading and writing!
Devon

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hodgepodge

Another week has flown by. I finished the manuscript I was working on. See the cute mile marker. Writer friend Taryn Raye made a whole set of these, in two different designs, for me a couple of years ago. I'll bet she thought I lost them. I still have them, Taryn, and thank you!

Anyway, I finished the manuscript a couple of days ago and now I'm busy ripping out its guts and rewriting. Sounds gruesome, doesn't it. It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

Speaking of gruesome... Hubby killed a copperhead in our garage yesterday evening. OUR GARAGE! I'm so freaked out. It's going to take a while before I feel comfortable again. We've always treated the garage like it's an extension of our house because it's attached. We've got so much stuff out there. And to think there might be something more hiding amongst all our boxes and bins. Brrrr! Gives me the creepy crawlies. Hubby says he's afraid to go prowling around out there now, too, and will have to wait until the dead of winter, when it's zero, to look through everything. This would not have happened if we still had Little Man. Since he's been gone, we're overrun with wild critters. At any time of the day, you can look out and find squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and (it seems) every kind of bird on the planet frolicking in our yard. By all reports we've heard, snakes are plentiful this year, too.

In other news... My son will be moving back home in a couple of weeks. He's been wanting to come back for several months now, but the lease on his apartment isn't up until the end of August, so he had to stick it out, work, pay rent, and wait. I'm thrilled that he was responsible enough not to walk away from his responsibilities and do what he wanted. After a year, it will be yet another adjustment for hubby and I. While we're happy he's coming back home, we've also gotten used to him not being here. It's hard to believe it's been a year already.

Devon

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dorchester News

Publisher's Weekly has some jaw-dropping news about Dorchester. They are adopting the e-pub business model. In future, all their books will be released in digital. The titles that sell well will later be available in print-on-demand. Dorchester will no longer be doing mass market print books. Wow. I'm still in shock. If you want to read the PW article, here's the link.

Devon

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lost Weekend

No, I'm not referring to the classic old movie. I'm talking about the past two days. I spent all day Saturday trying to figure out what was wrong with our desktop. No go. So I went ahead and crashed the thing and started it over from scratch. The difference in this time and times past--I had everything saved elsewhere so I didn't lose anything. Needless to say, I didn't get any writing done over the weekend. But I wrote over 1,600 words on Friday. Two steps forward, one step back.

Of course, crashing the computer couldn't be the end of it. I was trying to fast bake a couple of potatoes last night and broke the microwave. Then today, hubby went out to mow the yard. He'd only made a couple of passes around the perimeter when one of the back tires on the lawn mower came right off the rim. We tried to fix it back on, but that was a no-go, too. He's taking it to work with him tomorrow so he can stop at a garage and have it put back on the rim.

Hope your weekend was better than mine. I can't wait for tomorrow morning.

Devon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ebay and Nearly Finished

If you don't have Google alerts set up for your author name and titles, I recommend you do so. You'd be surprised at what turns up in your inbox. Today, I got an alert about a listing for my book on Ebay. Nothing new about that. It's been there nearly continuously for a couple of years--and at ridiculous prices. And the books are always listed as new, which makes me wonder where the sellers are getting them and if any portion of that filters down to me. I doubt it. I also highly doubt they ever sell any because of the prices. Anyway, the Ebay alert for today was a little different because the seller is in Australia. Yep. Someone in Aussie land has my book listed for sale, in brand new condition. What the heck! The price is $24.49, which equals $22.01 American, plus mailing charges. I've seen it listed for as much as $36. Here's the listing, if you want to take a look.

Okay. Enough of that.

Since RWA's national conference starts in a couple of days, I figure the blogosphere will be even deader than it is already until the weekend or later--unless some kind souls decide to blog about the goings on from their hotel rooms. I'm not going to Orlando but I am going offline for the rest of the week to finish up a manuscript that should have been finished a couple of weeks ago. I'm so close to the end, all I need is a big push to put it to bed. So, that's the plan.

To those of you going to conference, have fun and stay safe.

Happy writing!
Devon 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sex Sells EVERYthing

Have you seen this? Part of me thinks it's cute as heck. The other part of me feels it's an abomination. What do you think?



Devon

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Into The Weeds

As an avid reader, there's something that's been bugging me for quite a while. So I have to ask, how many times has this happened to you? You're reading an absolutely delicious book by one of your favorite authors. You're three-quarters of the way through it and, so far, it's been nothing but pure escapist joy. And then, and then... somewhere between the black moment and the resolution, the author drags you so far off into the weeds you begin to lose sight of why the book was so fabulous up to this point. And instead of ending with a bang or such a heart-wrenching scene you're forced to sit the box of tissues on the table next to you, it limps along to an uninspired conclusion that leaves you with the feeling you've been cheated somehow.

I have two theories about why this might happen.

a.) The author is a pantser and has no earthly idea how she is going to resolve the story, so she meanders around until the problem resolves itself. Or...

b.) The author pens the black moment, then realizes she could wrap it up in one more chapter. But wait! She's still 20 thousand words shy of her projected word count, so she shoves the hero and heroine into the weed patch and lets them grope around aimlessly--sometimes even doing things that run contrary to what we've learned about their character--until the necessary wordage has been achieved, at which time she thrusts them back together and resolves the thing.

Thankfully, most authors are not guilty of this. But there are a handful who come to my mind who are repeat offenders. One in particular is such a fabulous writer, I'm always heartbroken when she strays off the path. And I have to wonder how she stays on the bestseller lists.

Question--can you tell which of your favorite authors (no names, please) are plotters and which are pantsers just by reading their books?

Happy reading, and watch out for those weeds!

Devon

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Firsts

Since a lot of bloggers have a Friday "thing" they do, I thought I'd start my own and call it Friday Firsts. Every Friday (Lord willin' and the creek don't rise), I'll list three random books from my keeper shelves along with the very first line in each book. We've all heard about the importance of first lines so the point of this is to see if the first lines of our favorite books are attention grabbers, or not. Here goes.


Stranger In My Arms by Lisa Kleypas - 1998

"Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead."


(This is my all-time favorite Kleypas. Don't ask me why. I think it reminded me of A Rose in Winter, for some reason.)





Allie's Moon by Alexis Harrington - 2000

Althea Ford needed a man and she'd walked all the way to town to find one.


(The appeal of this one was that the hero was the town drunk. The heroine dragged him up by the scruff of his neck and reformed him. Very Americana-ish.)








The Outsider by Penelope Williamson - 1996

He came into their lives during the last ragged days of a Montana winter.


(This is the best portrait of a gunslinger ever written in a romance novel, in my opinion. I wish Ms. Williamson still wrote historicals, but she changed her name and went to mystery suspense. Too bad.)



Happy writing and reading! And have a great weekend!
Devon

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's The Plan?

Many of us go along for years, writing, learning all we can to improve our craft, and dreaming of the day we hold a book in our hands with our name on it. But even after we've done the best work we can do and that magic moment comes and the contract has been signed, how many of us are truly ready to be published?

I will be the first to admit that I was not prepared for what happens after the contract is signed.

First of all, I had to come up with a web site. Since I didn't have any excess money lying around and hubby had just lost his job, I sat here one night until the wee hours and pored over lists of hosting sites, looking for the best deal and one that was user friendly for a non-techie like me. Namely, one that required absolutely no knowledge of html. Once I settled on a host, I quickly went to work and threw together a site. It was not pretty though, at the time, I remember thinking it was the greatest thing since peanut butter. This speaks to my state of mind during this time of unbelievable, rapturous joy brought on by the fact that I was getting published at long last--I was not rational. Not even close. I've since relocated to a better host that uses the absolutely genius Intuit software, which is a vast improvement.

Second, be prepared to edit your precious darling. I had no problem dealing with this one, but I feel it's worth mentioning because I am aware of a few individuals who freaked out when their editors sent back their manuscripts with the first round edits on them. Just be aware that, unless you self-publish (and I don't recommend it), you will more than likely be asked to change a few things. Maybe even a lot of things.  

Third, I needed a marketing plan. How the heck was I supposed to get the word out to promote my book once it was released? Chats, blogs, and loops, oh my! Until my first live chat, I'd always considered myself to be somewhat of an articulate person--at least on paper. Ha! My most embarrassing moment came when I took part in a live chat with complete strangers. The first question the moderator asked was, "What's your book about?" Simple question, right? I mean, I wrote the darn book and I, of all people, should have known the answer to the question. But, guess what. I froze. Froze! I stumbled and fumbled so badly, the mod ended up passing it over completely and moved on to something easier like, "What is your hero's name?" I wanted to dig a hole and crawl into it. Lesson learned-- be ready to encapsulate your entire story in a line or two at the drop of a hat. Figure it out, write it down. Write it on the back of your hand, if that's what it takes.

Once your book hits the shelves, virtual or otherwise, be prepared to answer questions. About your story. About your writing process and your inspirations. Any halting or fumbling about for words is not acceptable. People start to give you strange looks if you do this. An air of self-confidence is a must when trying to promote yourself. Too bad so many of us writers become tongue-tied when you drag us from behind the keyboard and actually force us to speak.

Fourth point--and this is a biggie--once you publish your first book, readers expect more. Gasp! For most of us, this is a no-brainer. But for some--like me--we spend so much time writing, revising, polishing, and shopping that manuscript around NY that it never even occurs to us that at some point we need to move on and do it all over again with something new. I can tell you from experience that the question most frequently asked of a new author is, "When's your next book coming out?" It's a real wake up call, especially if you have nothing but a bunch of half-baked partials waiting in the wings. My advice to anyone who seriously aims for a career at this writing stuff is, don't publish unless you are prepared to publish again, and again. Otherwise you end up with a long, long stretch of nothing where you're trying to figure out what the heck your next move should be. Lesson learned (from my perspective, anyway)--don't submit unless you're prepared to cover your butt with solid follow-up material.

One final thing I want to mention. All of the above can happen at dizzying speed if you publish with an electronic press. In my case, I went from contract offer to book release in the space of two months. If that sounds like plenty time to make the adjustment and deal with all the details inherent with going from unpublished to published, trust me, it isn't. My biggest mistake was accepting an offer to edit when I'd barely finished signing the contract for my own book. The whole publishing experience kind of passed me by because I was up to my ears in queries and other people's manuscripts.

On the bright side, I've learned some really good lessons which--hopefully--left me better prepared for the future. It took a while, but I'm now looking forward and dreaming those big dreams again of tossing my hat into the publishing ring. And ain't it about time!

Happy writing!
Devon

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I try not to, but often I find myself dwelling on the changes that have taken place in the romance writing industry in recent years. Back when I first started seriously pursuing writing, we had never heard of an e-publisher. The RWA chapter I belonged to wasn't on Yahoogroups. The internet wasn't the end-all of communication and information it is now. Man, how times have changed. 

The question is, have they changed for better or worse? I guess the answer depends on who you ask.

Let's look at the negatives first, because I'd rather wrap this up on a positive note.

The economy is a big factor. Mass market sales are down. Therefore, advances are down. The authors who've been at this for a while are forced to write more and more to make the same money they were pulling in a few years ago. Midlist authors and those even farther down the ladder are being dropped like hot potatoes. Many are resorting to alternate avenues of publishing--small press, electronic, and even self-publishing. It's become commonplace to me now to run across authors who used to publish with the big, mass market publishers and find them on the lists of the small electronic/pod publishers. What many wouldn't even have considered doing a few short years ago has become the norm. (and we all thought this e-publishing stuff would never catch on) With more and more authors publishing with the small electronic presses, the competition for sales has grown fierce, and the contracts with the big boys in New York are more coveted than ever and increasingly harder to get.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? By all accounts I've seen and heard, the entire industry is in a tailspin. I'm curious to see how it all ends up, and yet I'm almost afraid to watch.

Okay. I said I'd end this with the good news, so here it is, for what it's worth. With the influx of all these electronic and/or print on demand publishers, nearly all of us can now be published. Yippee. Right? Well, the downside is that the money is nothing to brag about. There are quite a few exceptions, of course, but on average the electronic and print on demand published author will spend more on trying to promote her book than she will earn in royalties. Maybe the numbers will improve with more time and a few more e-readers. Most of the authors I know have built themselves a list. The more books they have out, the more money they make. One of the pluses of being e- and pod published is longevity. Your book stays on the market until you or your publisher decides to take it off, which means the royalties do add up over time. My own experience has been that after more than three years on the market, my sales are pretty much the same now as they were when my book was first published. After the initial friendship sales, it's now all casual traffic looking for the kind of book I've written, and when I go looking, I'm always amazed at the number of places on the internet where my book is listed for sale.  How much you make depends greatly on the genre you write and the degree to which you can spread the word around. It also doesn't hurt to have an entire army of family and friends who are willing to help drum up sales.

I'm interested in hearing your opinions. Is this wild west, anything goes era of publishing we've embarked on good times? Or is it the pits? Give me your perspective.

Devon

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This And That

I've lost a couple of writing days because of family obligations but I really can't complain because they are so few and far between.

I received the Pat Rice book, finally. If you're in the mood for a different kind of Regency Historical--or you always wanted to read about an earl put to the task of hoeing rhubarb--I highly recommend. I'm not very far into the story, but I'm enjoying it.

If you're wondering about the photo of Valentino, I posted it because it ties to a bit of info I want to share. If you write historicals, I recommend you put a shortcut to the Online Etymology Dictionary on your desktop. I've had it on mine for years and it's been invaluable. Any time I'm in doubt about a word, I simply click over and the ED tells me when the word came into use. It's great for checking up on those pesky, distracting anachronisms. For instance--if you see the word "sexy " used to describe someone as being sexually attractive in a story set before 1923, that's an anachronism. The word was first used in that context to describe Rudolph Valentino. Interesting.

I was very sorry to read about Dorchester being uninvited to the RWA conference, which takes place in just a couple of weeks. They're having financial problems and have failed to meet their contractual obligations--which I translate as, they haven't been paying their authors as promised. Hope they are able to get solvent soon. I would hate to see them go under. In many ways, they've been a pioneer in the romance industry for a lot of years.

Devon

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gone In A Flash

Methinks my tired typist picture is a little dated with that dinosaur of a monitor. It's been a while since I've dragged the old girl out and when I inserted her into the post, the image of that big, thick monitor jumped out at me. Oh, well.

This has not been my night.

Now that I'm in full-blown writing mode, I've become obsessed with saving my work. Each day, I'm making good progress and the thought of possibly losing it all to the "evil computer" makes me a little crazy. Over the years, I've lost so much in computer crashes and fried disk drives, it's no wonder I'm paranoid.

I've been writing on the laptop and saving to a flash drive. Then, tonight, I figured--just to be on the safe side--I'd put a copy of the ms. on the big desktop. So, I did that. Then I decided maybe I'd better copy the ms. to my other flash drives as well. Cause you never know, and I read somewhere that flash drives sometimes get corrupted. So I go looking for my other two flash drives and I find only one. The nice big one that has several gigs of storage space is missing. I can't find it anywhere. It has all my pictures on it. But I refuse to panic. For now.

I took several calming breaths and clicked over to Amazon to check on the Pat Rice book I ordered. Last time I checked, which was Saturday, it was sitting in Lexington, so it should have been here today, but I didn't get it. Well, according to the tracking record, it was delivered today. Well, no, it wasn't. And just to make doubly sure, I turned on all the outside lights, looked all around inside the garage, then went outside and looked on the doorstep of every entrance to the house. Nothing. Not that I really expected to find it. Every time I order a book, they wedge the Amazon box into the mailbox so tight it usually ends up ripping before I manage to get it out. I've never had anything get lost before, but if it doesn't turn up tomorrow, I guess I'll be calling the post office.

Tomorrow, I'm taking my daughter for a much-needed outing. We're going to visit my aunt. My cousin is there for a couple of days and we don't get to see each other often, so it should be fun. I could use the break.

Devon

Friday, July 9, 2010

As The Sun Sinks In The West...

In case you were wondering why I've gotten rid of the dark, earthy colors and my wild west banner and changed to a softer --hopefully-- more romantic, generic look, it's because for some time now I've been moving away from the westerns. Not to say that I've completely given up on them, by any means. But I have been writing in other genres, kind of the way I did when I first joined RWA more than 15 years ago.

Given the current publishing climate--and because I have no desire at this time to write either erotica or inspirational, which is most of the westerns published nowdays--I finally decided maybe it isn't such a good idea to pigeonhole myself as strictly a western author. Yeah, I know, I'm slow, but I finally did break over. It really wasn't a conscious decision. After being away from the keyboard for a good while, story ideas started coming to me again (after a looong dry spell). Funny thing is, the new ideas weren't westerns. So I decided to stop being stubborn and just go with the flow. And that's what I've been doing and I'm enjoying the writing process more than I have in a very long time.

I could write an entire post on the reasons why I stuck strictly to the westerns for as long as I did, and maybe I will, sometime or other. As I said, I've not given up on westerns completely. I love them too much for that. And there are at least two manuscripts that are begging me to finish them, so I intend to. Eventually. Who knows, maybe someday traditional westerns will become popular again, but I'm not holding my breath any longer. For now, I intend to write what speaks to me at the moment, regardless of genre.

The changes I've made to the blog I also plan to do on my web site. But I keep putting that off because changing out the template on an entire web site is no small undertaking and I'm dreading it. Just so you know, even though I got rid of the banner and the cowboys, I simply could not let go of the little red horse. So I moved him to the very bottom of the blog. He's inconspicuous there, but I can still scroll down and see him whenever I want. He's there now, running his little heart out.

Happy writing!
Devon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wycked

This afternoon I ordered Patricia Rice's latest book, The Wicked Wyckerly. Love the title, but I've always been a sucker for alliteration. I can't wait to read this. I decided to order after reading an excerpt and an interview Pat gave to RT. I admit, it's been a while since I've read one of Pat's books, but this is a traditional Regency without any paranormal elements and it sounds wicked good.

In this book, Pat has taken the usual fare for Regency Historicals and set it on its ear. This one is about impoverished nobility. Yikes! You mean there were nobles during the Regency period who weren't stinking rich? I say, bring it on, this will be a breath of fresh air. It's the first in a series about younger sons who will not inherit. Pat also has a wicked sense of humor, which I've always loved about her, and from the excerpt I read, she's given it free rein in this latest book.

Speaking of a wicked sense of humor... this is a switch in subject, but I can't go without sharing my hubby's latest jab. He owns a small retail business and today a male customer asked if he sells "smart water." My husband said, "No, I've never heard of it. But if I had some, I'd hand out samples." Ah, I love that man. ;o)

Devon

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From One Writer To Another...


Even with a huge organization like RWA, local state chapters, critique groups, and online networking sites, writing is still a solitary pursuit. When it comes right down to it, it's just us and the blank computer screen and what happens when the two of us interact that will make or break us as writers. That said, I don't think any of us could make it through all the bumps and low points we encounter along the journey without the support, encouragement, and sometimes well-deserved butt kicking from some special person or persons who are always there to talk us through when we hit a wall and start to panic. You know, that person you call to celebrate a request... or commiserate over a rejection. Yeah, that person. In most cases, that someone is another writer we met somewhere along the way. All I can say is, thank God for other writers who understand the industry speak and know exactly what we are feeling when the worst and the best happen. So, this is a shout out to writers everywhere. Just wanted to say, thank you for being there.

Devon

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July, everyone. In honor of our nation's independence, I'd like to pay tribute to a great American hero who helped preserve that independence and became the most decorated American soldier of World War II. Audie Murphy, soldier, actor, and veteran's advocate. Gone, far too young, but not forgotten.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

That Was Then

Several years ago, I read a feature article in a magazine about author Pat Conroy. It's been in the back of my mind all this time because his writing process for some of his early books was so amazing. I'm sure the article comes to mind because one of the things he did was keep a word list. Any word he came across or heard in conversation and liked, he added to his list and found a way to incorporate it into his writing. I've started doing this with words that I see and hear all the time, but don't normally use. When I come across them, I write them down in a notebook, then look up the precise meanings and write those down, too. I keep the list handy and, while I'm writing, I occasionally take a look to see if I can use any of the words in my manuscript. In this way, I feel I'm broadening my vocabulary. After all, what is a writer without an extensive arsenal of words?

But back to Pat Conroy. At the time the article was written, he had secluded himself in a scenic old lighthouse on the Carolina coast to write a manuscript. He stayed there, alone, and did nothing but write until the manuscript was finished. His food, drink, and other necessities were delivered to his doorstep by friends so he didn't have to leave his writing zone.

Here's the really amazing part. His writing process was simply to write. And write, and write. The initial drafts for the books titled Prince of Tides and Beach Music ended up at something just over 2,000 pages each. He wrote the scenes as they came to him, and in no particular order. By his own admission, he ended up with a mess of manuscript that he couldn't make heads or tails of. It was his editor, Nan Talese, who took those gi-normous manuscripts, pored through them page by page, slashing whole sections and rearranging, until they became the books that eventually went on to become bestsellers. How incredible is that?

It makes me wonder. In today's publishing climate, where editors want everything as close to perfection as possible on submission--so there's a minimum of editing--how far would Pat Conroy's ponderous manuscripts have gotten? Probably about as far as my first manuscript, which ran just slightly over 700 pages--a wee pittance compared to Mr. Conroy's tomes. Green as spring grass, I queried that monster to agents. I received a note from one, who shall remain nameless (because he's still agenting today), that was absolutely priceless. He said, and I quote: "Are you kidding me with this?" But back to Mr. Conroy. I'm going to take the optimistic high road and say that I'm sure he would have worked through the whole culling and editing process himself, eventually. Those books would still have been published and gone on to become bestsellers. But how much longer would the road to publication have taken?

I thought Mr. Conroy's story was interesting and I think it serves as a good example of how much the publishing industry has changed in recent years. I have to wonder, though, if there are any authors in this day and time who still receive that kind of special treatment from their publishers.

Devon

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Devil Is In The Details

While browsing author blogs, especially group blogs, I see a LOT of authors discussing the problems they find in today's Regency Historical romances. There's a lot of debate about anachronisms and I've often been tempted to include my two cents on the subject because I see things posted that are--at the very least--questionable and--at worst--maybe just plain wrong. But I don't comment because I'm no authority on the Regency. The main complaint of these Regency Historical authors appears to be about other Regency Historical authors who are getting their facts wrong and the idea that these historically inaccurate books are making them look bad. The more I see, the more I'm beginning to wonder if there's anyone out there who really knows the end-all, be-all of information about the Regency period.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I've looked up some of the things in dispute on the blogs. What I found was a lot of conflicting information. On both the internet and in print. So, is it any wonder there's disagreement when the various resources about the period can't seem to agree or are misinformed themselves?

Here's an example. One author complained about the use of the word "scone" during the Regency period. She stated that scones weren't around until the Victorian era. So, I went looking. According to Wiki, the common complement to English tea during the Regency was scones with clotted cream and jam. Another source stated that scones were of Scottish origin in the early 1500's. To me, it's not much of a stretch to think that during the 300 year interim, this food item might have ended up a couple of hundred miles down the road in English kitchens. So, what's the answer? Even after doing a bit of research about this small detail, it still isn't clear.

Here's another one. Did English gentlemen in the Regency wear Hessian boots, or did they wear Wellingtons. I have no idea, but I'd really like to know. Some authors who have been writing Regencies for years claim that both are wrong. So, what's the answer?

Use of the word "whiskey" also seems to be a sore spot with a lot of Regency authors. I looked it up. Scotch whiskey came into being in 1778 in neighboring Scotland. So, it seems only reasonable to me that during the 40 year period that followed, maybe a bottle or two of Scottish produced whiskey made it over the border into England. Who can say conclusively that it didn't?

For years, one of the biggest complaints I've seen has to do with the use of contractions in books set during the Regency. Many of the old school authors claim it just "wasn't done." I admit, I've never read Jane Austen, but I'm told she did use contractions in her writing. She passed away in 1817, which means she actually lived and wrote during the Regency period. I guess even she didn't wish to read an entire book that had no contractions.

In wrapping this up (for now), I'd like to offer the radical suggestion that maybe the anachronisms and historical inaccuracies that sometimes appear in historical romances aren't always the fault of sloppy research. Just maybe some of them are due to all the conflicting information floating around out there. All I did was go poking around a little bit and the problem immediately jumped out at me. On many of these minute details of the period, no two resources seem to completely agree. It would be nice if there was a comprehensive, accurate reference for each of the most popular time periods throughout history. In the meantime, I guess we just have to keep digging.

Devon

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cabin Fever

Is it just me, or is blogland truly as dry as a rain barrel in August lately? Where is everyone? I know I'm guilty of neglecting the blog in recent weeks, (okay, make that months) but I'll be darned if I can think of anything interesting to write about. I could talk about the crazy weather but I think we're all sick of it already. I have a whole slew of personal stuff I could unload but I'd rather not go there either.

So, what's left? Writing? Well, I'm still at it but there's nothing earth shattering to report as of this posting. Oh, I did have an epiphany the other day. (Yeah, another one.) I realized I've been looking at the business side of writing all wrong. So, I'm planning a new approach to the submission process. I'll let you know how that works out.

Anyone else got cabin fever? If so, what are you doing to keep from climbing the walls? The snow's coming again tomorrow night and it's expected to last until Tuesday. It's times like this when I really miss my son being here. He did move out back in the fall, by the way. When he was still at home, I could hop in my car and make a run to town whenever the notion hit me. Now, not so much. I've been making quick grocery runs about every two weeks.

Well, there I go. I said I wasn't going to unload my personal stuff, but I managed to slip something in anyway. Guess I'd better go before this turns into Dear Diary.

Enjoy Andrei Claude in cowboy getup. I posted Mr. Hottie because he's much nicer to look at than the cold stuff outside, and I think it's safe to say we're all sick of snow pictures.

Stay warm, everyone!

Devon

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bracing for SNOW

Issued by The National Weather Service Jackson, KY 10:49 pm EST, Thu., Jan. 28, 2010
... WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 1 PM FRIDAY TO 7 PM EST SATURDAY...
A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 1 PM FRIDAY TO 7 PM EST SATURDAY.
* SNOW IS EXPECTED TO START FALLING FRIDAY AFTERNOON SOUTH OF THE HAL ROGERS PARKWAY AND GRADUALLY SPREAD NORTH AND EAST THROUGHOUT THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING. SNOW IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE UNTIL SATURDAY EVENING.
* SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS BY SATURDAY AFTERNOON WILL LIKELY REACH 6 TO 10 INCHES OVER THE WARNING AREA... WITH UP TO A FOOT OVER THE HIGHER RIDGES ALONG THE VIRGINIA BORDER.


Well, this is what we have to look forward to tomorrow. More snow. I've been tracking it on radar all day, watching it build out west and tonight it's getting ever closer. From the looks of it, I think the storm will be here long before 1:00 tomorrow. I wouldn't be surprised if we wake up to the white stuff.

In any event, I think we're prepared. I went to the grocery yesterday and stocked up, just in case, because we live several miles outside of town in a rural area and our road is well off the beaten track. If we should lose power, we have plenty of firewood and kerosene.

I hope everyone stays safe and warm.

Devon

Monday, January 25, 2010

Calling For Backup


Yes, the Evil Computer is back. Over at Bookends, the topic for today is backing up your computer files, so it got me to thinking. Is there any 100% safe and sure backup method?

Over the years I've backed up my word files on floppies, rewritable CDs, and flash drives, but I've still managed to lose a lot of material as a result of computer crashes. Any backup method is only as good as the person using it. You have to resave each document after each and every little edit or you're not covered.

Let's run it down. Floppies are out of the question. They never were reliable, and these days computers usually don't even have a floppy drive. Writable CDs are good, I guess, but I always had a problem with those as well. On every computer I've owned--and I'm now up to half a dozen--the CD drive has eventually stopped working. I'm now using flash drives, but I understand they are also vulnerable because they can become corrupted.

Back in the very early days of owning a computer, I printed everything. It didn't take long before I was buried under a mountain of partials in hard copy. I printed each time I made a change or added to each document and, after a while, I couldn't make heads or tails of any of it because the sheer volume of version 1, 2 , 3 etc. became overwhelming. And let's not forget the cost of paper and ink for all that printing.

So, what's the answer?

Many writers set up a Google or Yahoo email account and email their manuscripts to themselves. But I foresee the same old problem with this. You would have to be super diligent and email the ms. each and every time you make a change to the text.

I know how heartbreaking it is to lose an entire manuscript or even multiple partials, not to mention pictures and other sundry items, in a computer crash. Just the other day, a dear friend and fellow writer asked me if I perchance had any of her old manuscripts on my computer from when we used to critique together. Sadly, I had to say I didn't. Those critiques were two computers and several years ago. I feel so bad for her. She's lost everything she didn't have in hard copy.

If anyone has a tried and true backup method that I haven't mentioned, I'd love to hear about it.

Devon

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Clutter

I spent nearly the entire day today going through all the paper in my office. I mean all of it, and--let me tell you--it was a daunting task.

All this time, I thought I kept my writing space neat and organized. Ha! I had no idea I had accumulated that much paper. Old manuscripts. Not just one, but several copies of each. Mail, mail, MAIL. Pictures. I ran across some strange stuff when I went digging into everything. Both entire sets of my children's baby teeth, the package of new checks I thought I hadn't ordered yet, even my old student ID from junior high. Geez, I hate to admit it, but the picture on that was in black and white.

This all started on Saturday when my husband needed the title for his car because he was trading it in, and I couldn't find it. I found the title to my son's car, but not hubby's and not mine. I was ready to pull my hair out. I still haven't found them, but wherever they are, they're together. I know I'll end up finding them in a stupid--right in front of your nose--kind of place. I'm sure I stuck them up for safekeeping. The question is, where?

Meanwhile, I've gone through every envelope and scrap of paper in this office. The most interesting things I found--and I plan to sit down later and really look at them--are old correspondence from editors, agents, and writing pals. At least this had forced me to get rid of the clutter in the drawers and cabinets.

Hope everyone has a great, clutter-free week. :o)

Devon

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In With A Whimper...

From where I'm sitting, this year certainly hasn't started off with the kind of bang I had hoped for. My heart goes out to everyone everywhere who is suffering and grieving right now. I'm sick at heart over the catastrophe in Haiti. It's impossible to imagine the horror those people are living every day. I lost someone very close to me over the holidays and I'm just now starting to come to terms with it. Closer to home, my thoughts and prayers are also with Magdalena Scott and family. Stay strong, Mags. Your writing family is here if you need us.

Now, for a complete change of subject...


Rules of Engagement, by Christina Dodd, was published in Oct. 2000. I know because I looked it up. Why? I received a Google alert about this book in my inbox the other day. It turns out the hero's name is Devon Matthews. How funny is that? If I ever happen to meet Ms. Dodd, I'll probably have to explain that my pseudonym is a combination of my children's given names and not a ripoff of her character. I may have to buy a copy now and read it. Just because.

I haven't been online much during the past many weeks, but I have been writing. More recently, I've been working on a laptop that isn't online. I disabled the wireless function so I'd have no temptations or distractions. My goal for the year is to finish three projects. Two full-length and one short. Wish me luck. :o)

Devon